100. this is the sea

“Because sometimes the music just needs to be BIG. And who better to lay it all down than the band that put a name to such stuff, The Waterboys, who yes, as a matter of fact, were more relevant than U2 in the power and passion realm come the mid-1980s. Because in main man Mike Scott, they had a proper a poet on board, and thus more colours, clearer visions, greater incision. At least that was the argument a few months ago. This Is The Sea (album and song) versus The Unforgettable Fire (album and song), both high water marks, no doubt, but Waterboys had more of it, whatever it is, because water beats fire every time. I guess. What I can easily say now, many years after the fact, is that the album (and band) that still speaks to me is the outfit that Mr. Scott put together way back when, because unlike U2, he found a way to haul on the reins at just the right moment, stopped the whole mad and beautiful thing from charging off into the abyss of fame and ridiculousness which, I figure, mainly meant not losing focus, making sure the music and poetry that infused it remained bigger than all other concerns. Or something like that. Because like the song says, this ain’t no brook, no creek, no river even, this is this, as big as it gets. Bigger than words anyway.” (Philip Random)

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103. sex bomb

“The album is called Generic. The contents are anything but, the band known as Flipper being one of those outfits that weren’t exactly punk, except what else could they be, except maybe one of the all time essential party outfits? With Sex Bomb my particular go-to for those times when the party really does need to last all night long even if there aren’t chemicals in your blood, just too much alcohol and perhaps marijuana and sloppy stupid eruptions of fun, un-focus, glory even … as we all throw in, do our part to keep this mad world at least in some loose connection with its axis (or maybe the opposite). I do recall thinking this, some late 80s punk party, in the basement of the place they called the Sewer View. A few bands had played, maybe even the Evaporators, but now it was just some guy’s party tape. Probably mine.” (Philip Random)

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113. Madame George

In the condition I was in, it assumed at the time the quality of a beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk; what’s more, it was proof that there was something left to express artistically besides nihilism and destruction. “All hail Lester Bangs‘ mostly lucid raving about Astral Weeks, without which I may never have found myself in the thrall of Van Morrison’s Madame George and its nine plus minutes of mystical, magical longing, all childlike visions and the smell of sweet perfume. No way, you say. Astral Weeks is famous enough, I would’ve stumbled upon it eventually. But that’s not how the universe works, I say. Because if I hadn’t spent a week or three in the grim eternity of a mid-1980s February pouring over its ever second, who knows what might have happened, what mystical butterflies would have remained dormant, never flapped their wings and set great cosmic vibrations in motion? The Berlin Wall may never have come down. The Cold War may have brewed hot and catastrophic. The end of all things. Maybe. As for Madame George, it seems to be about a cross-dresser, but it’s really about all of us, how we’ll never really get to hold that thing we desire the most, and yet the reaching for it, the yearning, well that redeems us, doesn’t it, confirms our humanity? And if you haven’t yet found the time to sit still for about forty-eight minutes and listen to the miracle of Astral Weeks in its entirety, well, what are you waiting for? The world could end at any second.” (Philip Random)

136. return of the grievous angel

“Late 1980s sometime, date a bit vague because I was convalescing at the time, coming off a prolonged ailment that, in retrospect, had at least something to do with a disease in my soul. Which made it the perfect time to finally discover the music of Gram Parsons. Yeah, I’d heard of him, how he pretty much invented country rock, hooked up with Keith Richard, turned heroin blue way before his time. But now via random discovery of his only two solo albums at a yard sale, I was actually hearing his soul, because that’s what it was (still is), his take on so-called Country. Soul music, grievous and angelic. And precisely what I hadn’t been hearing pretty much my entire life, which was a white man digging deep into the roots of his own music, finding some beauty therein. If you don’t like Country, you don’t really like me.” (Philip Random)

142. big sky [meteorological mix]

“I think of remixes as mostly a 1980s thing. Certainly, that’s when I first started noticing them. And the meteorological remix of Kate Bush‘s Big Sky has to rate as one of the very best, from any decade. A perfectly fine track from a perfectly excellent album, expanded, explored, ultimately rendered into a true force of nature by the time the big drums come thundering in toward the end. I don’t know if I ever heard this in a club, but I sure as hell drove my car to it a lot – real open highway stuff, early morning, no traffic, just the speed of life, with big clouds in the distance, threatening.” (Philip Random)

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145. a touching display

Wire’s 154, released in 1979, has been hard to ignore with this list, being one of those albums that helped invent the future, gave birth to all manner of sounds and textures that would come to define the decade known as the 1980s, which is now ancient history, of course. But 154 continues to stand up, songs usually as sharp and short as they are lyrically obtuse. Though A Touching Display goes the other way with a vengeance – an epic and passionate display of song as weapon, particularly as things erupt past the midpoint, like a bomber the size of a football stadium off to deliver a payload that would destroy the known world. And it did.

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244. Giant

“Don’t let the tricky name fool you. The The (mostly the work of just one man, Matt Johnson) are one of the pivotal outfits of 1980s, particularly Soul Mining, their first proper album, of which Giant is the final track, and yes, it’s at least as big as its name. And forever dedicated by me to everyone who’s ever chased their passions, pushed envelopes, stayed awake way too long, and gotten torn apart for their troubles. Because Giant seems to be about all of this — scared of God, scared of hell, caving in on upon itself.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Nicola Tyson)

375. war in the east

DOA saved my life any number of times in the 1980s, mainly through their live shows. From the back of auto body shops to abandoned youth clubs to at least one high school gym to the Arts Club on Seymour (still the best damned live venue the Terminal City has ever had) to at least two sold out Commodore Ballrooms, to some impromptu acoustic messing around off the edge of a movie set – it was never pretty, always somehow beautiful. And I’m pretty sure they did War In The East every time, their only reggae song, because it slowed things a touch, clarified a few key points. Fighting one another – killing for big brother. Same as it ever was.” (Philip Random)

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377. magnificent seven

“In retrospect, we realized that The Magnificent Seven was the Clash taking on hip-hop, but in early 1981 when Sandinista first arrived, nobody in suburban Canadian wherever had even heard the term yet. So for me, it felt more like a riff on Bob Dylan, subterranean and homesick — definitely New York City in all of its turn of the decade corrosion and despair, and yet madly fertile anyway, not unlike the world as a whole at the time. The acid helped in this regard. I feel I should I apologize for this, all the acid references that seem to pop up whenever some kind of broader cultural view is required as to what really went down in the 1980s (my angle on it anyway). But why should one apologize for telling the truth? The Clash never did. Even when they were wrong.” (Philip Random)

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